EXERTS FROM THE NEWFOUNDLAND QUARTERLY
THE GREENSPOND SAGA
In History, Song and Story
By DR. ROBERT SAUNDERS, J.D. (Dr. Juris)
Graduate of Boston, New York, Columbia. Rutgers and Iowa State Universities, the College of Law of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Diploma in International Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Some may think that local history such as I research for, and write, of, on Greenspond, of which I have an intimate knowledge, fills a small part only when compared with the bigger subject of country-wide history. But let me quote from a well known Canadian scholar thus: “It is the exclusive privilege and the obvious duty, of local historians to explore minutely every avenue of their provincial life, to clear up the local aspects of every problem. Moreover, the, local Historian should walk with a firm step, conscious that his part is one of fundamental importance.” (By D. C. Harvey in the Canadian Historical Review, Sept. 1932).
Let us now take up a brief review of a once prominent Greenspond family, - namely The Blandfords.
Long may- they live! May Blandford’s sons
Ere time shall wreck them down
Plant other. pines to fill their. place
These worthies of the town.
(From a poem by- Samuel A. Wood in Ulster Scots and Blandford Scouts.”)
The original Blandford, young Darius, came from Farnham in Dorset, as it says on his monument in the cemetery at Greenspond. The little town of Farnham is eight miles north of Blandford Forum. (See map of part of Dorset showing the north corner of the Shire). Farnham even today, is a small town of less than a thousand souls, and Blandford Forum near by has only 3700 (New Gazeeter 1961). Clustered around these two is Blandford Saint Mary where lived at one time Governor Pitt, grandfather of the first Earl of Chatham.
Let us review briefly this historic district that sent out its son whose descendants were to play a prominent part in the political and commercial life of not only Greenspond but Newfoundland itself.
In the Domesday Book Farnham reads “Farneham” (Hutchins, Dorset) and Rev. Hutchins - Who wrote his monumental work on English counties a century ago-says: - “A little village . . it seems to take its name from a remarkable plenty of ferns growing thereabouts.” By a return to Parliament in 1801 the parish of Farnham contained 22 inhabited houses. In 1851 a few years after the ambitious young Blandford had migrated to Greenspond, it contained 121 souls (Ibid.).
But Farnham is famous today; for General Pitt-Rivers has set up a fine museum at great cost to him (Douch). Paul Nash in his “Dorset” adds: “The generous General laid out some elegant and rather fantastic gardens” If we were to spend a moment on Blandford Forum of which Farnham is somewhat of a suburb we find Blandford giving the title of Marquis of Blandford to the great General John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. This was in Dec. 1702, and the title Marquess of Blandford is still in the male heirs to this day. (See Life Magazine for August 30, 1948, and January 1949.
This general area, especially Blandford, had a market as early as the time of Henry III - 1216-1272 (Hutchins, Vol. 1) and Hutchins citing a medieval writer, “Coker”, says: “A faire market towne ... well inhabited and of good traffique. “It was said that the Earl of Lincoln”.May hold a fair in his Ville of Blandford on the Virgils, day and feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (Hutchins, citing the Rolls of Parliament). Newfoundland has two Blandford places Port Blandford in Bonavista Bay, and Blandford Harbour on the Labrador, often visited by Captain the Hon. Samuel Blandford over half a century ago.
I have a guidebook of Blandford Forum in which it says; “Newfoundland is a souvenir of us: at the head of a large inlet is Port Blandford the only overseas repeat name in being.” I may say that Port Blandford and Blandford Harbour both take their names from the Greenspond family and not from Blandford in Dorset. There is also a town of Blandford in New England named because over two hundred years ago Governor Shirley came over, in a ship “Blandford” and when Governor, Belcher. came over to New England in 1730 he took passage in the man-of-war “Blandford” (Wood). The Pennsylvania Magazine for 1897 reprints a soldier’s diary of other days which Blandford, in Virginia, is mentioned as: 20 or 30 houses and a store.”
Hon. Samuel, who served in the house of Assembly, and Legislative Council was the best known of the three brothers - Darius, James and Samuel-sons of the original Darius from Farnham. The original soon after settling in Greenspond applied himself diligently to a then honourable calling, that of a blacksmith as did also his son James who had his “Ship” in about the middle of the island on the left hand side of the road, going from Pond Head to “down the Harbour.”
Here in his adopted domicile did the first Blandford labour long, and hard, as is testified by the verse on his monument in the Church of England cemetery “on the island.” Thus:
“My sledge and anvil I’ll decline .
My bellows too have lost their wind.
My fire extinct, my forge decayed,
And in the dust my vice is laid;
My coals consumed, my iron is gone,
My nails are driven, my work is done.”
When these lines were penned the calling of “blacksmithing” was a most honourable trade of getting the anchors, chains and rigging in order for the great sailing fleet. It is perhaps remarkable that his three sons - Samuel, James and Darius - all should have developed into sons worthy of the young man from Farnham, population 928, about that of Greenspond proper today.
In their political career both Samuel and Darius had the confidence of the people of the bay. The London Times on the 13th Nov. 1900 says at a time when the Morine-sponsored party, suffered a great defeat on account of the so- called “Reid Deal” that: “Mr. Morine, Mr. Chaplin and Mr. Blandford, Mr. Reid’s shipmaster retain Bonavista for the opposition but the majority is reduced.”
In 1897 Darius, John Cowand and Hon. A. B. Morine were elected for the Bay (Assembly, Proc. 1898). Equally successful in his sealing, ventures the Rev. Moses Harvey was able to say in 1897 in “Newfoundland in Jubilee Year” that: “There are great successes such is that of the S.S. Neptune, Captain Blandford in 1894, after. an absence of eighteen days she returned to port with every nook and cranny jammed with pelts . . . her gunwale was only, two feet above water. She brought in 42,000 seals, value $103,750.00.”
Captain Darius in his eleven springs averaged 13,520 a year. Captain Samuel in his thirty one springs averaged 19,520 per year and Captain James total catch 16,699 pelts for a shore time in command. (The sealing statistics of Mr. Chafe). The Evening Telegram on Mar. 13, 1959, says in a dispatch from George Meadus at Greenspond that: “Another. great honour came to Greenspond when Captain Darius Blandford made the quickest trip ever recorded. It was only nine days from the day of his sailing when he returned with a full load.”
We pause awhile for a brief review
Of the generations our fathers knew.
A glimpse of the town and the old mainway,
And the common people of yesterday.
O hither came, in the early days,
A sturdy race of the homespun kind
They sought no honors, nor fleeting praise…
They left the glories of earth behind.
And, boldly facing the storm and stress.
They built their home in the wilderness.
The homes thus founded by pioneers…
The enterprise in their days begun
Survive the changes of passing years.
And shall persist while the ages run:
And Greenspond’s standard of civic pride
On such foundations as these abide.
(With apologies to an old poet)
A Greenspond man, writing me from St. John’s this August made a remark that set me thinking. He says: - Have you been able to learn anything of the first settlers in Greenspond, and what parts of England they came from. The settlers on the island in Bonavista Bay must have been a hardy type and I often wonder what induced them to leave the mild climate of Southern England and settle on the isolated and rugged islands and bays.” His first question inspired me to bring out some material I have had from England since first starting this “Saga”.
It is impossible to name the exact country many came from when they found their new homes in Greenspond. It can safely be said it was around the busy port of Poole, so well told some years ago by Mr. B. C. Short in “Poole - the Romance of its early History” and other books and contributions, even recently, to the local Dorset papers. Poole served as an exodus center for many of the smaller towns in the Old West Country, such as Bridport, noted for its lines and twines, Salcombe, Plympton etc.
Take for example the first Blandford to settle in Greenspond namely Darius. He came there as a very young man, but full of ambition to carve a career in the then important seaport town as the headstone on his grave in Greenspond says, he came from Dorset. He was from a small town, by name, Farnham. Farnham forms part of or very near to Blandford Forum. A writer to me from Dorset in 1953 remarks that the population of Farnham is now slightly over 100 souls; but many of the old relics of former days remain in the little town. Sir Frederick Treves Bart. writing over half a century ago on “The Highways and Byways of Dorset”, says: - “In the unique and magnificent museum which General Pitt-Rivers has established at Farnham can be seen a model of the ancient town.”
The rise of the Blandford’s in Greenspond was most remarkable. Darius the First fell into the spirit of the local industry of the time in Greenspond. He became a blacksmith in the centre of the town. Before I should say. Samuel Dawe had his “further down the harbour.” He next captained sealing vessels and did also his sons James, Darius Jr. and Samuel, (afterwards Hon. Samuel Blandford of the legislative council).
Let us pause a moment to look at the second generation from Farnham. Samuel held the centre of the stage in Newfoundland in the closing, days of the last century, mainly as Member of the House of Assembly. and Reid’s shipmaster, as a good simple of how well the Blandford’s were regarded we may note that when an election was fought on the so-called “Reid Deal,” one of the great issues in Newfoundland’s political life. Mr. Blandford, even though an employee, as “shipmaster” for the Reid interests, was duly elected to the Assembly for Bonavista Bay. He was a man among men and since leaving Newfoundland, if I visited a Newfoundland home and the conversation veered to industry, some veteran of the captains would refer to him affectionately as “Sammy”.
In the third generation Sydney D. followed his father as a member for Bonavista Bay, a Minister of Agriculture and Mines and to the Legislative Council. At election in Greenspond I can just remember the days the stalwarts of the town, placed him on their shoulders in a kitchen chair and Paraded him that way from Dominy’s place to Pond Head - not to draw votes: for his election was assured.
‘The Blandford’s became related to the Edgar family through marriage. The start of the Edgar family in Greenspond was Dr. John Edgar. of the British Navy. He came to Greenspond as soon as it was. in any broad sense, settled with a permanent population. He was the doctor and Justice of the Peace. I can definitely say that John Edgar came from Childe Okeford, in Dorset. A letter to me from Dorset. Feb 27, 1953 says:- “In my last letter I referred to the Edgar’s who left this village and settled in Newfoundland. A great-great- grandmother of the Edgar’s, wife of Rev. John Edgar M. A. lies buried in the village churchyard of Childe Okeford.” The evidence is conclusive when we consult H. P. Smith’s. “History of Lodge Amity” Masonic) of Poole, Dorset.
The following from Smith’s History are parts of an address given by the then District Grand Secretary of Newfoundland at Poole. Brother Walter J. Edgar. Thus: - “The Newfoundland Brethren” . . . continued Brother Edgar “had spent a very enjoyable fortnight” . . . He stated that when his great-grandfather went out to Newfoundland in 1802 he was at first a guest of the Garlands. He took a prominent part in the civic life of Newfoundland, and on several occasions made what was in those days the very dangerous voyage to England. On one of his visits he was licensed by the Bishop of London to preach as a missionary.” Brother Edgar asked the Lodge to accept a photograph of the place at Greenspond where the Doctor had lived for thirty years. He then thanked the Lodge Amity for his most cherished possession---the “Petition of his great grandfather one of the witnesses to which was Brother John Bennett Blandford, whose family, later became connected by marriage with the Edgar’s.
The Newfoundland visitors to Poole were then shown around the historic points in Poole where the Slades and Garlands, having business in Greenspond had headquarters. The visit concludes: - “finally visited the old Antelope Inn and inspected the very room Brother Edgar’s great-grandfather etc. was initiated. Brother Edgar wrote the author of Lodge Amity of Poole in reply to a request from him that: - “Dr. John Edgar was a surgeon in the Royal Navy, The family solicitor in Poole at that time was Thomas Parr and in his accounts references are made in many places in Dorset, Poole, Childe Okeford etc. Brother Edgar expressed some small doubts of his family’s Earlier history before coming to Greenspond. But the present writer on the “Greenspond Saga” hopes the Greenspond readers will bear with me when I quote from Winifield S. Downs on: “The Edgar Family, in America”, July 1922 thus: - “With its roots deep in Antiquity: the family of Edgar . . . noted in Scottish history in several branches. It is a family which in numerical strength has dwindled, but which in influence and accomplishment has held to the high standards and worth of and early day” “In England, an ancient family of the name settled in Berkshire. That, and the Edgar family in Suffolk, may have had a common ancestor. A few persons named Edgar seem to have been in attendance upon or connected with the courts of several of the ancient kings of Scotland. We find a notice of Sir Patrick Edgar in 1272 in the chronicles . . . “They were among the few families who disobeyed the act of 1672 . . . in not having their Arms matriculated in the Layon Register then establish. In this century flourished the Edgar’s near Craigmillar and the Edgar’s of Keithcock. The lands of Wedderlie continued in possession of the Edgar family until 1733 - 36.
As of 25th July 1736 John Edgar, the last in possession, marked the exodus of his race from their ancient patrimony. The earliest is a crown charter granted in the year 1619 to John Edgar eldest son of Robert Edgar of Wedderlie.” “Before the Reformation the Edgar’s, were buried in their own chapel at Wedderlie. The estates were later sold and in the words of the narrator: “The Auld laird and his lady drove out in their carriage and four horses at mid-day: but the young laird (their only child) was broken-hearted at the thought of leaving the Auld place, and he waited till the darkening; for he said the sun should na shine when he left his home.” The preserver of this antidote was a very aged woman, named Eppy Forsyth. She remembered the young laird riding down. the avenue alone, and she said. “It was a dark night when the last Edgar rode out of Wedderlie.”
This death notice is recorded by Downs: - In Bedford Square Rear Admiral Alexander Edgar descendant of the ancient family of Edgar of Wedderlie. Downs remarks that this family “flourished in d Berwichshire until the death of Lieut.-Col Hunter Edgar in 1808.” and Downs adds: - “It is at once perceived that there have been extensive offshots, whose descendants have never been traced.” John Edgar, continues Downs, participated actively in the Stewart rising of 1715. Taken prisoner, he died in captivity in Sterling Castle.
From Dr. John Edgar of Greenspond and his descendants I have it from one of the family whom my family has been on intimate terms for many years. In fact my first job was working for Edwin Edgar, a merchant in Greenspond, and grandson of the original Dr. John Edgar from Dorset.
Following the old Dr. John Edgar’s profession, I don’t suppose there is any one family of which so many daughters passed through the nursing profession. One of the family whom I have known over many years sends me this: - Gertrude and Maud great granddaughters of Dr. Edgar trained at the Montreal Hospital. Mldred daughter of Joseph (a grandson of Dr. John) trained at the General Hospital St. John’s. Clarissa and Jessie daughters of Edwin (a grandson of Dr. John) trained at the General Hospital St. John’s. Jessie was matron of the Military and Naval Hospital, St. John’s World War 1 and her sister Olive trained at the Montreal General Hospital.
The war toll of the Edgar’s: - Sons of John, Joseph and Edwin died in action in World War 1. Albert son of John: Charles son of Joseph, (a Lieut. In the Royal Newfoundland Regiment - killed in action) and Edwin son of Edwin, killed in action. Royal Newfoundland Regiment July 1, 1916. And Albert’s son John, lost an arm in the same war.
We will now take up the early settlers on Newels Island. Five families owned the whole island namely: the Carters, Burrys, Hunts, Cooze and Durham. I am deeply indebted to Mr. David Martin Carter now of Halifax who writes me under date October 24th (and he draws a chart of that once important island showing the original ownership): Mr. Carter says: - Five families owned this island: - Carters, Burrys, Hunts, Cooze and Durham. Durhams property of which no living person today has any remembrance, was in the middle of the island along the main road. And Mr. Carter continues: - Newells Island, so named from the first settler by the name of Newell. “On Newell’s Island at that time (over a century ago) John Burry gave his daughter half of Newells Island as a wedding present. “The Burrys used to go to England every fall of the year and come back every spring to fish until they got settled away for good.” And Mr. Carter Continues, My mother used to tell me the Carters had enough money on the island to sink it. all in gold.” They used to make their own butter, cheese etc. The most outstanding of the later generation from Newells Island was Captain Peter Carter who passed on in 1959. I have said that Captain Peter once brought in the biggest load of seals on record. My good friend, Mr. W. J. Dewey - a great Greenspond booster - who has done some research work as my statement concludes: - “Captain Blackwood of the Imogene gets the honour of securing greatest number of seals ever brought in for one trip. and Captain Peter of the S. S. Ungava gets the honour of securing greatest gross weight by any steamer on one trip. As its weight in “fat” that always counted, so Captain Peter and Newell’s Island has certainly made history indeed.
Look at the other early settlers! The Dykes settle first at Bonavista, and as Greenspond in earlier days, took the surplus of Bonavista, we see early Dykes buying property where the Brooking family had once operated an extensive business. They carried on fishing at the Wadhams, French Shore and Labrador, of whom more later. Let us hear from any present or past settles and residents who may have something on their own families, for Greenspond has a unique history.
Let us now take up the second proposition: “Why they left the old country and start anew amid the most strange surroundings. To discuss this one must have some knowledge of Industrial England in these days - the era of wide- spread emigration to the new world. The old country was then over-stocked with population. Cramped for housing was just one problem. Compare this with even Greenspond, the ideal commercial fishing port, with plenty of timber on “the main” or “tip the bay” for both fire wood and boat and schooner building. Cod, lobster and salmon in abundance when the town was stood in the forefront among outports. There was no problem of conflicting interests They all spoke the same language, knew what the law may be, as to their obligations, privileges and rights. Their roots were in the old sea-faring comities, of Dorset and Devon and when they pulled up from the, old England they brought their old ideas and transplanted then in their new communities.
We can no better close this than by citing a poem. “Voice of the Pioneers”. in Americana ( 1929).
“Mine was the task of yesterday
A marvey to imfold:
I was the first to clean the way.
Through battens bleak and bold;
With faith serene and courage keen.
The Present I foretold.”
“A shelter in the pathless wood,
Was high reward for me:
My simple fare was sweet and good.
With labour’s ministry:
And well I knew, God’s Fatherhood
A gracious boon to be.”
“Rude were the times and rude the age.
Of my allotted years:
Stern were the tasks and small the wage -
Greaseless the hunger fare:
Yet history hath many a page.
For these, her pioneers.”